The Oyo Central senatorial candidate of the Accord Party in the 2011 election, Chief Oyebisi Ilaka, told Ademola Babalola why he lost the senatorial seat three years ago and his plan to seek a fresh mandate in 2015. Excerpts:
The political atmosphere in the country appears to be heavily charged with the gale of defections across the political parties, do you foresee any trouble ahead?
In politics, things always remain in flux. The permanent thing in politics is that there will always be movement from time to time. We also have to bear in mind that the current political experiment has only been going for about 15 years. So, the idea of democracy is still pretty novel. The parties themselves have not really found their bearing because they are not really ideologically driven. They operate in the main as a platform on which people contest for political office. But the parties should take up bigger role, for instance, in the area of formulation of policies, ideology and raising funds so that a party will have its own funds and not wait for elections to be sponsored by individual moneybags. There is actually not much difference between politicians in PDP and APC. So, people will cross to and from these parties. This does actually lead one to believe that this tagging- conservatives versus progressives-has no truth and substance in it. A politician from the so-called progressive camp goes to lie in bed in the conservative fold the following day. The movements however make our political system dynamic. The ruling party for instance has been looking inwards and making certain changes. In this sense, I think it is good for our democracy.
Some people are apprehensive that the military might stage a comeback if the rising political tension is not checked.
I donâ€™t think that will ever happen again. The days when we had those coups and counter coups are gone for good. I am sure if there is a coup in Nigeria today, the people will come out on the streets and openly revolt. Nigerians have not forgotten the level of misrule the military junta inflicted on them. Infrastructure fell into total disrepair, there was no regard for human life and liberty and so many more. A civilian dispensation, as bad as it might be, is better than the best of any military administration.
Politicians from a section of the North are against the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan contrary to the position of the people of the South-south geo-political zone who feel that the president deserves a second term of office. What is your view?
Both sides have their own points. It is within the constitutional rights of Mr. President to seek another four-year term. I think the people who defected from PDP to APC missed the trip. They would have created an opportunity for the Third Force to develop. The force is made up of politicians whose idea of politics does not really resonate with the PDP or APC. They were a little bit slack and lazy by falling to the bait of joining a party to become automatic leaders in their states and they did not want to face challenges. To rule this country, you have to stand up and be counted and say â€˜this is where I stand on issues.â€™
How do you see the directive by the national leadership of the APC to its members in the National Assembly to filibuster the executive bills, including the 2014 Appropriation Bill?
That directive is a total betrayal of the Nigerians. If APC lawmakers want to scrutinize the bill line-by-line and raise questions where they have and put forward reason to back those observations. The major issue with our budget has been low implementation. The filibustering tactic of the APC will put millions of Nigerians in misery because the money that circulates in this country principally comes from the Federal Government. In truth, it could cause more chaos than imagined. So, the APC missed the point on the directive.
Are you confident that the Independent INEC will do a good job in 2015?
I have my own personal issue with INEC. Every time we are voting, INEC gets voted a lot of money and as far as I am concerned, they give us poor value for the money. I find it quite galling that we spent a lot of data capture machines and we went into the 2011 elections, there was no electronic way of verifying votersâ€™ identities. I hope this process will be in place in 2015 because I know that the technology is everywhere now. In Nigeria today, anyone who has an existing passport cannot approach the Nigeria Immigration Service for another passport without getting caught and arrested. So, the issue of multiple registrations should have been eliminated. The basis on which any election will be conducted is the register and if that register is corrupt, anything that follows from it will be wrong. INEC should first clean the voterâ€™s register of under-aged voters and multiple registrants. Also, INEC should move away from the issue of paper ballot because politicians have a way of manipulating it. I hope the coming election is a lot better and not that INEC will tell us they tried their best but that by and large the election was okay.
The national confab matter is raising the dust. For instance, the Presidency is nominating 60 out of the 492 delegates that will attend the conference, while ethnic nationalities and various groups are clamouring for more slots to be adequately represented. Where do you stand on the issue?
Whenever we have this kind of getting together in a country as diverse as our, there is no arrangement that is chosen that people will be happy with. But sitting down and discussing an issue is something we must do. Whether this conference will produce a perfect result is another thing. But I agree we must sit together and discuss our problems. Our constitution is prefaced with â€œWe the peopleâ€ and there was no where we the people of Nigeria sat down and wrote this constitution which was handed over to us by the military junta. There is a school of thought that says now that we have legislative chambers, we can now amend the constitution. So, I see the 60 delegates from the Federal Government as the nominees of the Establishment and if they want to maintain the status quo and hold a position that is not tenable, the remaining 432 delegates will be able to have their way.
You lost the Oyo Central senatorial election in 2011 to what you dubbed as â€œOyo Agendaâ€. Can you expatiate on this?
Oyo Agenda means a lot of things to different people. For me, it constantly means an agenda to improve the lot of our people. But that particular election was not in that direction. After the election, we went to court but were constrained by this time limit thing whereby the other side wasted a lot of time. The Court of Appeal said we should go and listen to the case and all our opponents prayed for was that the case would not be heard. We went there because they thought we would never go to court. I looked at the electoral process and said â€˜I trust them; they will be slapdash in the way they did this.â€™ We were leading in seven out of 11 local governments, outside where I come from, and they waited till 6:00 p.m. before they brought the result and made up for the shortfall. When we looked at the documents, we saw there was issue with the EC8 forms. The result on these forms did not even add up, with clear cases of over-voting. Accreditation was not done properly; the register had issue. There were discrepancies in the number of those accredited and the number that actually voted. Ballot papers that were used during the postponed election found their way into the ones used later, including ballot papers used in different states. The whole thing was a complete mishmash and they thought we would not go to court. In court, we presented evidence. But we were not allowed our day in court. All they did was make technical application from the beginning to the end.
But this time around, Accord will not be slapdash in its electoral management. We will be up and doing and defend our votes at the point of voting and there will not be a repeat performance of the charade. Accord will be more vigilant in 2015 and they also know that if they try any game, we know how to catch them.
In case you were elected as the senator for your district, what are the things you will do differently in order to stop the rot you mentioned earlier?
I have a blueprint. I have discussed and engaged the people of the district and I know what they want. Oyo Central, by large, is an agrarian district. There are ways we can think strategically in terms of getting our people to get better rewards from agriculture. Looking at the chain of production, the value mapping and getting clusters together and bring food processing in a large degree to these areas so that our farmers can get better yield from their sweats. Our farmers produce a variety of food but there is no proper canary, even if it is small-scale, in the whole district. There is no proper cassava processing plant. Out of the cluster of these little industries, we can bring social services and help improve community education and health through integrated rural development plan.